04-15-1843

[l to r] Henry and William James

HENRY JAMES, American author was born (d. 1916); In a brilliant series of articles, endorsed by James’s biographer Leon Edel, Richard Hall has shown that James was in love with his brother, the Harvard philosopher William James.

This finally puts to rest the speculations that have ranged (honest to god) from a severe, lifelong case of constipation to his having been hit in the nuts with a pump handle to explain why the famous writer seems to never have had a sex life.

For many years Henry James has been the darling of graduate students and other masochists, almost everyone else being bored to tears by his crabbed prose. Here is Somerset Maugham on the subject: “I don’t think Henry James knew how ordinary people behave. His characters have neither bowels nor sexual organs. [In James’s books] people do not go away, they depart, they do not go home, but repair to their domiciles, and they do not go to bed, they retire.” Late in life, James seems to have fallen for a sculptor, thirty years his junior, but it is doubtful that anything remotely physical transpired. James was seventy-two when he finally rusted.